Sam, a 24 year old transgender man who lived at Beit Dror, a Tel Aviv shelter for LGBT youth, for a period of just over a year, illustrates the crucial and often life-changing resources that Beit Dror has to offer.
In Israel, everyone’s eyes are on conflict. Politics and social life become muddled together in a constant hyper-vigilance toward issues of security, borders, and ideologies toward a Jewish State. With eyes focused outwards, a community with similar pressing concerns of safety is slipping through the cracks, unnoticed.
While Israel touts itself as a safe haven for the LGBT community in the Middle East, and its protections are admittedly drastically better than in the surrounding area, the lives of many LGBT youth, particularly transgender youth, are precariously without support.
“Beit Dror” (House of Freedom, in English) is an emergency shelter for homeless LGBT youth located in Tel Aviv – the first and only of its kind in Israel. Beit Dror opens their doors to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adolescents who have been rejected and alienated from their homes and families because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Beit Dror provides them with basic living conditions: a safe home, warm bed, and hot meals; and also with necessary tools to find successful and joyful lives in Israeli society, such as social support, immediate and ongoing counseling, and educational assistance.
Sam came to Beit Dror when he was eighteen years old, after tension in his home escalated so much over the start of his Female-to-Male hormone replacement therapy that he decided it would be best for everyone if he moved out. Rather than ending up on the street, turning to illegal and often dangerous means of survival, he was able to find a support system that physically and emotionally helped him with his transition through genders and into adulthood. We had the opportunity to talk to Sam about his experiences at Beit Dror, and the ways in which his time here has shaped his life.